This was originally written for the Whidbey Camano Land Trust Newsletter, Fall 2008, Issue #4. I have wanted to go back to the “paradise” of my youth for the last couple of years and then the sad reality of my visit in 2008 comes into focus. Today I was reminded of this when hearing the news that the Leque Island Habitat Restoration Project has been a success in bringing back birds, fish, and vegetation and healing the estuary. I have tried to do the same in my gardens, working with nature to protect nature. We can make a positive difference.
A Sad Return Leads to Inspiration for Conservation
In 1935, at the height of the great depression, my family moved to Morro Bay. This small, coastal town in central California became my earthly paradise. A few steps from our house a high bank overlooked a beautiful estuary with a massive volcanic rock marking the entry from the sea. At the foot of the bank, a narrow sandy beach gave way at low tied to a muddy shore. The bay spread out toward the encompassing sand spit in a series of mud flats mostly separated by narrow channels dense with beds of eelgrass. One deeper channel had been dredged to allow local fishing boats past Morro Rock to the sea. To the south, thick patches of willows clothed the wetland’s meandering sloughs; to the north were hills of chaparral. All of this was home to countless birds, mammals, fish and simpler creatures.
This year I returned briefly for the first time in about 50 years. Nothing remained of what I had known. A steam plant had replaced the willows. A paved road to a large yacht basin covered the old beach. The bay was extensively dredged in some areas and filled in others. Saddened, I returned to my home in Washington. I am grateful for the wonderful natural areas here and am now certain that we must preserve them. Once the concrete is poured, you’ll never get it back the way it was.